How to Build a DIY Dollhouse
If you follow us on IG (stories!) you may have already caught a sneak peek of our BIG holiday DIY of 2019. Last year, we made this play kitchen for Nova’s big gift and it’s honestly the only gift that has been played with EVERY DAY all year long. I also learned how meaningful it is (for me!) to spend months planning and working on a special project to give our children for Christmas.
This year, we’ve been on a bit of a Mary Poppins kick and Nova LOVES the scene in the movie where they are cleaning up with all the snaps. I asked her a month or so ago if she would like mommy to make her a dollhouse and she said, “Yes, but it needs to have doors.” Haha. I knew right away she was referencing the dollhouse in Mary Poppins and I knew we had to build one, inspired by it, just for her!
The first step was to design the basic build of the house. I spent a long time searching all the different kits you can buy online, but ultimately decided it would be the most fun to build it from scratch. With a little advice from my friend Mandi, we got started. I chose to do a simple, 4-foot tall house with two doors, six rooms inside and a bonus room hiding under the roof.
Here you can see the full inside.
The outside of the house has trimmed out windows with window boxes. The doors have windows that are basically just four holes.
Collin did an incredible job building this house based on a basic sketch I made. He added a lot of his own details as well, like the chimney (a Mary Poppins-inspired dollhouse OBVIOUSLY needs a chimney!). I’m turning it over to Collin now to walk you through the DIY steps of creating this house!
-six 1/2″ x 2′ x 4′ birch plywood
-fifteen 1/4″ x 2″ x 2′ poplar boards
-six 1/4″ x 4″ x 2′ poplar boards
-one 3″ x 3″ x 3′ poplar board
-small door hinges
-two cabinet door catch
–clear flex tape
-painters tape (optional)
-pneumatic nail gun and finish nails
–12″ speed square (optional but very helpful)
-2 wood clamps
-400 grit sandpaper
First, you’re going to want to cut all of pieces of plywood for the sides, back and bottom of the dollhouse. The overall dimensions are 30″ wide by 4′ tall x 12″ deep. The easiest way to cut your plywood is to lay them on a table or work bench with part of it hanging off while using wood clamps to keep it in place and make sure where the blade is going to be cutting the wood is also off the edge of the table so you don’t go sawing your table in half. To make sure you get perfectly straight cuts, hold a speed square in place to guide your circular saw (if you’re making cuts 12″ or shorter) or when making long rips in the plywood, clamp a scrap piece of wood on top of your board to guide your saw (as shown in picture above). This will make sure you get clean perfect cuts. Pro tip! Put a piece of painters tape on your plywood where you’re making your cuts to prevent unwanted splintering and shredding.
Cut the bottom piece of the dollhouse to cut to 29″ x 11″. The back two pieces at 40″ x 14.5″. The sides will be 4′ x 12″ with the top of each piece 45º angles as shown above.
Assemble all pieces together with wood glue and a nail gun with the side and back pieces attaching to the side edge of the bottom piece as shown above! I cut and added a scrap piece of wood to the top of the back pieces to hold them together, but it ended up not being entirely necessary (I found out later on), but you can add it if desired.
Next thing to do is to cut out the windows! I made a template out of foam board to speed things along in this process (cardboard would work too). You can make the windows any size you want but ours are 2.5″ x 2.5″ with 1/2′ in between each square. Trace out 6 sets of windows, 3 on each side of the dollhouse. It’s helpful to fill in the part of the window that is getting cut out with a pencil to make sure you don’t get your lines confused. Drill pilot holes in opposite corners of each window the same width as your jigsaw blade and cut out the windows.
Grab some scrap pieces of plywood that you probably have by now and cut some little 1″ strips for supports for the second and third “floors” and attach them to the walls with wood glue and a nail gun as shown above. Cut two more pieces 29″ x 11.5″ boards (same size as bottom piece) and place onto support boards and secure with wood glue and a nail gun.For the roof, cut two pieces of plywood to 32″ x 10″ with 45º angles so that when you put them together they meet in the middle like in the picture shown above. To make these long 45º cuts, just use the same method I explained earlier, but set your circular saw at a 45º angle when you cut.
Place the two roof pieces on top of your dollhouse and place a strip of clear flex tape along the top. You might be wondering why flex tape and not hinges. … Well, if I used hinges they would be very visible and stick out from the top of the roof and I really didn’t want that. I wanted it to appear as the roof didn’t open at all so it was an extra fun surprise when it does! So, I opted to use this stuff. Random, I know, but It is extremely strong and flexible so it can allow the top of the dollhouse to open and close really easily. Glue and nail gun the back roof piece to the dollhouse, leaving the front piece free to swing open and shut.
For the chimney base, take your 3″ x 3″ x 3′ board and cut a 5″ piece with a 45º angle on one side. Also cut one of your 1/4″ x 2″ x 2′ boards into four 3″ pieces with 45º angles on each side as shown above for the chimney top.
Attach the little 3″ pieces to the top of the of your chimney base, then glue and nail gun the chimney anywhere you want to the back side of the dollhouse. Next for the roof (shingles), take your six 1/4″ x 4″ x 2′ boards and cut them to the length of the roof (32″) and attach them to the roof starting from the bottom up. On the back side, you’ll need to cut the pieces to fit around the chimney. To do this, hold up each piece of 1/4″ x 4″ x 2′ to the chimney and mark where you’ll need to cut. Use the same cutting method as I explained to cut out the windows, drill pilot holes in the corners and jigsaw out the pieces.
Take your 1/4″ x 2″ x 2′ boards and with a miter saw cut a bunch of 6″ pieces with 45º angles on them to be the trim for your windows. Glue and attach all trim pieces to all 6 windows. Also cut some 10″ pieces with 45º cuts on one end for trim pieces for the roof as shown above. Pro tip! You can get some 400 grit sandpaper and stick it to a scrap piece of wood to sand the inside of the windows.
For the doors, cut two pieces of plywood to 40″ x 15″ and trace and cut out 6 windows same way as before and attach with hinges. You can add some trim to these windows as well, but we decided to leave them plain.
Cut 3 pieces of plywood at 12″x 13 1/4″ to be room dividers and glue and nail gun them in the middle of each floor to make 6 separate rooms. Also cut one more 29″ x 11.5″ floor piece, but this time with a 45º cut on one side to match the angle of the room for the top floor and “hidden room.”
Lastly, grab your 1/4″ x 2″ x 2′ boards and cut a bunch of 2 1/4″ length pieces and 6 1/2″ length pieces to make little window boxes on each of the windows on the sides of the dollhouse. Glue and nail gun them together as shown above!
In our next post, I’ll share the process of painting, furnishing and well, renovating (lol) the rest of the house. I’ve bought some of the furnishings online, but the vast majority of them we plan to DIY.
I wanted to start posting this series as early as possible, so if you feel the pull to create your own dollhouse, you will still have plenty of time! It’s definitely a passion project and something that takes a solid month or more to create from start to finish (well, especially the next phase with filling up all the tiny rooms). I can’t wait to get into the next phase, and even more than that, I CANNOT wait for this to be sitting under the tree on Christmas morning!
Stay tuned for more dollhouse updates coming soon! xx- Elsie
Credits//Author: Elsie Larson and Collin DuPree. Photography: Amber Ulmer. Photos edited with A Color Story Desktop.